Full disclosure: I openly mocked director David Brooks’ 2012 feature-length debut “ATM” when I first happened upon the trailer. A horror movie set inside a free-standing ATM? Starring Josh Peck? The film sounds ludicrous by design. However, it’s not nearly as butt-clenchingly terrible as one might initially imagine. Sure, a reasonable amount of disbelief must be suspended in order to fully enjoy the convoluted storyline, but Brooks and his capable cast — Peck included — do a fine job of making you believe that a scenario as silly as this could actually happen. Had this thing been released back in the mid-90’s, it probably would have cleaned up at the box office. Kevin Williamson should be proud of his vast cinematic legacy.
“ATM” concerns itself with the misadventures of three co-workers who, after attending a company Christmas party, decide to head home for the evening. David (Brian Geraghty) offers to give his would-be girlfriend Emily (Alice Eve) a lift home, an invitation that is accepted by his intoxicated and highly obnoxious friend Corey (Josh Peck). After pestering the hell out of David to find him something to eat, Corey insists that the trio swing by the nearest ATM so he can procure some cash. Thankfully, there just happens to be such a machine located inside a tiny glass structure in the middle of a deserted parking lot. How brutally convenient!
Before you can loudly scream “Big mistake!” at the television screen, a sinister-looking individual wearing a creepy parka begins skulking about the parking lot. At first, our heroes think that he’s just some unstable homeless guy looking for a Christmas Eve hand-out, that is, until he nonchalantly beats a guy to death right before their very eyes. Although his intentions are never completely revealed, the trio suspects that he wants to rob the ATM, and he’s waiting for one of them to make a mistake so he can sneak inside. Thus begins a rather uneventful game of cat and mouse, one that involves lots of bickering, finger-pointing, and ice water. Lots and lots of ice water. And you thought ATM service charges were a headache.
Like I said, there’s nothing overly original happening here. Accept for the location, of course. The film pops along at a reasonable speed, which is good when 75% of your motion picture is set within one tiny room with three annoying twenty-somethings. Giving yourself over to the movie’s internal logic is the most difficult part; complaining about the characters and their brainless, half-baked decisions becomes tiring after the first 40 minutes, so you might as well succumb to the stupidity. Allowing your mind to accept the plot and its bevy of devices is essential to enjoying the picture. If you can’t get past the whole “trapped in an ATM by a sadistic killer” angle, then all hopes of entertainment shall be lost. Completely.
Those who long for the days of “Urban Legend” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” will probably enjoy “ATM” the most. The numerous flaws are apparently from the outset, though the film still manages to provide mild entertainment for parties looking for a flick they don’t have to spend too much time thinking about. The performances are surprisingly strong, the pacing allows for moderate suspense, and the ending is suitably downbeat and acceptable given the genre. That having been said, “ATM” isn’t a good movie by any stretch of the imagination. The concept is actually kind of cool, though there isn’t nearly enough meat around the bone to make this movie an entire meal. It’s clever, but not clever enough. Lightly recommended.
David Brooks (director) / Chris Sparling (screenplay)
CAST: Alice Eve … Emily
Josh Peck … Corey
Brian Geraghty … David